One in a series of profiles of Maryland delegates to the Republican National Convention
Ask Brenda Butscher to compare this year's Republican convention to the first one she attended, in 1972, and her answer is unexpected.
"One thing is I haven't met with an ice pick since I've been here," the 72-year-old Garrett County woman says with a smile.
Butscher, who has attended nine national political conventions — more than anyone else in Maryland's delegation — found herself caught up in the Vietnam War protests that accompanied the 1972 nomination of Richard M. Nixon in Miami Beach. When she stepped off a bus there, one protester held an ice pick to her neck while another intentionally fell on the ground in front of her to block her path.
"I was scared to death," she said.
Despite the encounter, she kept coming back. Part of the reason she finds value in the hoopla, she said, is that a small county like Garrett rarely plays host to top Republican leaders. The conventions are an opportunity not only to hear from state and national party officials but also to meet them.
Butscher, who was elected the first female commissioner in Garrett County in 1990, works as the executive director of the county's hospice. She said she expects this will be her last political convention. She said the difficulty moving from event to event and the long hours delegates endure at the gatherings are taking their toll.
"No longer can I wear high heels here," she quipped.
Louis Pope, the Republican national committeeman from Maryland who is himself an experienced delegate, said he's confident Butscher will remain involved in state GOP politics for a long time.
"She's been to nine conventions, and she says this one will be her last," he said. "I don't believe her."